If you’re applying to law school, there’s a little three-digit number that’s going to determine a lot about your future. No, not your order number from Chipotle. We’re talking about your LSAT score.
The Law School Admission Test is a standardized test that you have to take if you want to go to an ABA-accredited law school in the United States or Canada. Depending on how you do, you get a score ranging from 120-180. While other tests (such as the bar exam) are pass/fail, when it comes to the LSAT, typically the higher your score, the better the law school you attend.
All things being equal, you’ll want to attend the best law school you can. A better law school can maximize your options. Not only do higher-ranked law schools typically have better on campus recruiting (OCI) for law firm jobs upon graduation, you can also often parlay your acceptance at a higher-ranked law school to an acceptance at a lower-ranked school with tuition reduction and/or scholarships. Both options can serve to help defray law school debt, an increasing concern in today’s tightening legal market. (Also leaving more money for Chipotle runs).
What LSAT Scores Mean
The LSAT is graded on what is basically a curve. (For more information on how the test is scored, see our article: “How Is the LSAT Scored?”). The upshot is, however, that how you do is the result of a comparison to everyone else who took the test.
A 151 is generally considered to be an “average” score, because it roughly correlates to the 50th percentile. That means that if you receive an LSAT score of 151, you did better than half the people who took the test, and you did worse than half the people who took the test. Although the scores and their correlation to percentiles change with each exam, here’s a list of typical scores and the tier of school to which they equate, based on the school’s average LSAT scores, as published by LSAC (the people who write the test) and the rankings, as published by US News & World Report (the de-facto standard in law school rankings). Please bear in mind that these are general correlations only. To look up the average LSAT score of a particular law school, you can find more information on the LSAC website or check with the law school. To learn more about law school rankings, check the US News & World Report website.
|LSAT Score||Percentile||Law School|
|151||50th||typically the entrance level for ABA-accredited law schools|
Your LSAT score isn’t the only consideration in law school admissions. Your GPA is also very important, as are your “soft” factors, such as your personal statement and letters of recommendation. In other words, you might run into someone at Harvard Law School with an LSAT score of 165, particularly if they single-handedly constructed a schoolhouse for an arctic village in Siberia or worked on the Mir space station. But for most schools, the LSAT is the single largest factor in their decision, so make sure you study assiduously. Here’s where the order number from Chipotle comes in, by the way. Their chips and guac make an excellent study aid.